The Role of Couple Negotiation in Unmet Need for Contraception and the Decision to Stop Childbearing in Uganda


  • Brent Wolff,

    1. Brent Wolff is Lecturer, Centre for Population Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT.
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  • Ann K. Blanc,

    1. Ann K. Blanc is an independent consultant, formerly Coordinator for Demographic Analysis at the Demographic and Health Surveys Program.
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  • John Ssekamatte-Ssebuliba

    1. John Ssekamatte-Ssebuliba is Head, Department of Population Studies, Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.
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This study uses survey and focus-group data from the 1995–96 Negotiating Reproductive Outcomes study in Uganda to describe the nature of the decision to stop childbearing and to question the simplifying assumption of consensus decisionmaking implicit in much demographic research on unmet need. Negotiation is characterized in four stages, from normative precedent for decisionmaking to communication, disagreement, and conflict resolution. Indirect forms of communication between partners predominate, contributing to the tendency of both men and women to overestimate each other's demand for additional children. Partner opposition is found to cause a statistically significant increase in unmet need reported by women and a shift in contraceptive mix favoring use of traditional methods over modern methods. For women, partner opposition may account for as much as 20 percent of unmet need in urban areas, 12 percent in rural areas, and 15 percent overall.